Biomira Could Get a New Lease on Life

Will Biomira (BIOM ) be the first to develop a therapeutic vaccine for metastatic breast cancer? Some analysts are betting on the biotech company, which has completed enrollment of 903 patients for Phase III clinical trials of its Theratope vaccine--which bolsters the body's immune response. And in a few weeks, Biomira will name a partner to co-market the vaccine worldwide. Two big European drugmakers are vying for a licensing and marketing deal. Biomira's second drug, BLP-25, which targets lung cancer, is in Phase II trials.

The partner will pay $10 million upfront and acquire an equity stake in Biomira--a big plus for the company, says one investment manager. "We expect Biomira to make great progress with Theratope in the next six to nine months," says analyst Cosme Ordonez of Canadian investment firm Dlouhy Merchant Group. Although the outcome is far from certain, he expects "positive interim results" based on previous clinical data. The results should boost Biomira stock, now at 5.69, says Ordonez. He rates it a buy.

The trials seek to verify the effectiveness of the vaccine in delaying the progress of breast cancer and in prolonging patient survival. The first interim analysis of the tests is expected in the third quarter. Assuming Food & Drug Administration approval in 2003, says the analyst, Biomira could turn profitable in 2004. His 12-month target: 13 a share.

By Gene G. Marcial

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